Ministry of Commerce and USAID in association with a2i (Aspire to Innovate, the Cabinet Division wing) held the first of a series of e-Commerce Policy Dialogues today at a local hotel. Stakeholders from ICT Division, SME Foundation, Banks, trade bodies and e-Commerce industry joined this dialogue, highlighting the scopes of bringing further modification to the existing policy.

The purpose of this policy dialogue is to highlight the rapidly growing Bangladesh’s e-commerce business current practice and address the gaps and challenges faced by the consumers and the traders. The gaps and challenges will be then shared with the relevant ministries through a2i for their information and actions.

Today’s first Dialogue Session was chaired by Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, with N. M. Zeaul Alam, Senior Secretary of ICT Division as the guest of honor. Rezwanul Haque Jami, Head of eCommerce at a2i made the Key Note presentation on Digital ID Moderated by Zeeshan Kingshuk Huq, Consultant of DAI Global, the dialogue series also had panelists from ministries, SME Foundation, eCAB, BASIS and private sector players. 

Mr. Tapan mentioned that there are many challenges, but the Government is keen to work towards solutions far more than ever before. One of the key solutions to Trade Licenses and Digital IDs lie in replacing or consolidating old legal requirements. This needs a coordinated effort.

Mr. Zeaul Alam said, the Government is already working on inter-operability for payments. Once launched, this facility will enable automated payments to multiple stakeholders in real-time. He also encouraged banks to utilize finances for cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSME).

Mr. Jami from a2i – in his keynote presentation – mentioned that CMSME currently has approximately 50% growth every year. They could grow faster if allowed an easier legal incorporation and a tech-enabled e-Commerce platform. Digital ID, he mentioned, is going to help ease this puzzle and make it easier for banks as well regulators to have a credibility check.

Focusing on Digital ID for this first dialogue of the series, the panelists in this session included Md. Hafizur Rahman, in-charge of Digital Cell at Ministry of Commerce, Sheikh Shoebul Alam, Registrar of RJSC, Abdul Wahed Tomal and Sahabuddin Shipon from eCAB, Samira Z Himika from BASIS, Fahim Mashroor of ajkerdeal, Zia Ashraf from Chaldal, Ilmul Haque Sajib from ShebaXYZ, Syed Abdul Momen, DMD of BRAC Bank, Nasima Akther Nisha of WE, Sabera Anwar from Go Deshi and many more.

Muhammad N. Khan, Director of Economic Growth Office at USAID, in his closing remarks reiterated the need to continue such multi-stakeholder engagements, and reaffirmed USAID support for any such future endeavors that can work as a catalyst to bring positive changes in policies and bring reforms in the sector.

Fahim Mashroor pointed out that the new budget (Finance Bill 2022) requires Income Tax Return submission for any online business, despite of having Digital Business ID (DBID). Speakers at the Dialogue agreed that such a requirement is not conducive to ease of business. Samira Z. Himika offered that BASIS could take up a controlled pilot project to have a complete check of how the DBID works, what should the revised SOPs be, so that DBID can really become useful for the Government and entrepreneurs alike. Tomal from eCAB and Zia from Bangladesh Bank suggested to integrate logistics companies with product delivery verification and escrow system for online payments.

Mr. Hafiz, in-charge for Digital Cell at Ministry of Commerce, announces that they were already working on cross border eCommerce policy as well as will be bringing a Digital Communication Agency Policy. Digital ID, in both cases, will become a facilitating feature for the entrepreneurs.

Mr. Shafiquzzaman, DG of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, urged to have a shift in mind-set. He mentioned that we cannot extend 5 lac Taka loans to deserving entrepreneurs despite having digital IDs, while thousand crore taka is syphoned off on online platforms in absence of timely steps.

The e-commerce industry was estimated at $1.6 billion in 2016 and is projected to hit $3 billion by 2023. To meet the goals envisioned in Bangladesh’s Vision 2041, e-Commerce related regulations and oversight must evolve along with the digital commerce ecosystem, incorporating international best practices to ensure continued growth.